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Reds assure safe passage of anti-Covid vaccines into guerilla zones

The New People’s Army (NPA) will ensure unimpeded passage of anti-coronavirus vaccines in its guerilla base and zones, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) announced.

CPP information officer Marco Valbuena said the NPA will ensure that transportation of vaccines will be provided a humanitarian corridor into areas under the control and influence of the guerrilla army.

The CPP statement is in response to President Rodrigo Duterte’s appeal Monday night to allow COVID-19 vaccines to be transported “freely and safely” in far-flung areas once they become available.

“The [CPP] must guarantee that the vaccines, in the course of their being transported to areas where there are no city health officers and medical persons…please leave the medicines alone,” Duterte said.

“I am asking you now to observe that rule because that is for the Filipino people…Kindly observe the rules of humanity,” Duterte added.

“It is a matter of principle for the NPA to respect all humanitarian undertakings that benefit the masses,” the CPP replied.

The CPP however suggested that the transportation, distribution and inoculation drive of Covid-19 vaccines especially in the interior areas be handled by the International Committee of the Red Cross, the Philippine Red Cross and other civilian humanitarian agencies.

The CPP said personnel of said agencies are properly trained and have the facilities to undertake such missions.

“Non-Red cross vehicles that will be used as Covid-19 vaccine transporters must be clearly and properly marked with a red cross over [a] white background,” the group said.

The CPP also strongly suggested that the vaccines not be transported in military vehicles, especially those which are not properly marked and carrying armed soldiers.

“Over the past year, the AFP has been carrying out combat and psywar (psychological warfare) operations behind the veil of implementing Covid-19 restrictions,” Valbuena explained.

Using the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to transport and handle vaccines will not encourage people to be vaccinated especially in many areas in the countryside where people are traumatized by military garrisoning of their communities and helicopter gunships firing missiles, he added.

The CPP complained that peasant civilians are worried that the AFP might use the vaccination drive for counterinsurgency and demand “surrender” before vaccine.

The Manila government said that the first batch of anti-Covid19 vaccines may arrive next week and the first inoculations may start within February. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

CPP denounces military’s detention of Red Cross convoy carrying wounded rebels

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) denounced the detention of an International Committee of the Red Cross convoy in Lianga, Surigao del Sur last Friday, May 29, saying Philippine Army’s action is an affront on international humanitarian law (IHL).

In a statement, the underground group said the 4th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army (IDPA) also subjected the three-vehicle convoy to search and interrogation.

“The flagging down and inspection of the ICRC convoy, clearly marked with the Red Cross logos, was an unacceptable affront on IHL. As a recognized guardian of IHL, the ICRC medical convoy should have been accorded due respect and allowed to travel unimpeded,” the CPP said.

The CPP said the ICRC convoy was reported to be transporting two wounded fighters identified as Jea Angeles Perez and Noel Dadang it said were both hors de combat. A hors de combat is a person who is no longer participating in hostilities, by choice or circumstance

The group said the convoy was stopped at a checkpoint and were surrounded by the soldiers. It was later “escorted” by military and police vehicles to the Davao Regional Medical Center in Tagum City, Davao del Norte province “with the aim of subjecting the two patients to arrest and detention.”

“The AFP virtually turned the ICRC convoy into a prisoner transport for the AFP in violation of the ICRC’s recognized international role,” the CPP said.

The ICRC, including its vehicles and buildings clearly marked with either the Red Cross or Red Crescent emblems, are declared immune from attack in accordance with the First Geneva Conventions of 1949.

In an Inquirer report, 4th IDPA spokesperson Capt. Al Anthony Pueblas admitted the convoy was “briefly detained” after fetching Perez and Dadang from San Agustin, Surigao del Sur, a known New People’s Army stronghold.

Military and police troopers block ICRC convoy.
(Photo by PNP Surigao del Sur)

Pueblas said the patients were probably wounded in a series of clashes between the NPA and government troops from May 14 to 19.

ICRC communications officer Allison Lopez said the Army and police were informed of the humanitarian evacuation before they transported the two wounded persons.

“This medical evacuation was carried out strictly for humanitarian purposes. As a neutral, impartial and independent humanitarian organization, the ICRC’s mandate is to protect and assist victims of armed conflict. Under the International Humanitarian Law, wounded and sick fighters regardless of which side they are from are entitled to the medical care and treatment required by their condition,” Lopez said.

The CPP said the incident marked a new level of impunity by the military and police, demanding reparation for the incident.

“The Party demands respect for the rights of the detained and calls for their immediate release under IHL,” it said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)